The belief that Turkish military coups are different like our other jobs from rest of the world became a popular idea among intellectuals including political scientists, as so far. According to this assumption, our soldiers would do the job and leave the rest to civilians in a short time. In other words, our Army is different from the armies of Latin America or relatively poorer countries of Asia and Africa. Many political scientists argued that Turkey’s military was not staying permanently in politics because Turkish generals are in fact democracy-lovers. The 27 May, 21 March and 12 September interventions were given as examples to show this dissimilarity. Because we go too far in this claim, even President Peres of Israel was affected and said that ‘Turkey is the only country in the world where the army is assigned to protect the democracy’. It is clear that the gentleman’s aim is not only to make a simple statement, but he also obviously thinks a new coup d’état will occur to protect Turkish democracy.
Did the Turkish soldiers return to the barracks every time? Did they consider making elections in the first days of coups? As a matter of fact that the Turkish Army intervened the politics to protect democracy and that they returned to their barracks shortly following the coups are huge lies. At best, it is a huge urban legend, myth or tale. In Turkey, there is an institutionalized, permanent and continuing coup process. This is a never-ending process and even now Turkey lives in a coup-order. That’s why the struggle between civilians and the militarists is so severe.
Although it is possible to see other coup examples during the Ottoman period as the predecessors of the modern coups, the most obvious starting point of the permanent coup order is the 27 May intervention. On 27 May, the military personal carried out the coup d’état defeated the system and betrayed their countries’ constitutional structure by rebelling against the president, prime minister and national parliament. What they had done was a just rebellion or bullying but it was also directly a disloyalty against their country. It is not possible to think such a brutal and rough act would have left the power to civilians just after the elections. In fact, these soldiers, who hung the country’s prime minister and two ministers on the gallows, their first job was to change the constitution from top to bottom. They replaced the entire institutional structure of the country while also changing the parliament shaped by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. With laws and constitution, they protected themselves; meanwhile the place of the military in the system was made more centralized. While officers’ salaries were raised in an unbelievable way, the generals established companies, like OYAK, in almost every area ranging from banking to construction that are unrelated to military services. Promises have been made by political parties while special efforts have been made to avoid undesirable people entering into politics.
Parliament was surrendered after the May 27. There was no need to make a new coup d’état anymore. The only thing to be done was to present demands both to government and parliament. If the demands were not satisfied enough, the force would show itself again as in the 1971 Memorandum.
Within this period, 12 September is another huge and bloody intervention. All the politics of the country were razed while thousands of people were forced to flee abroad. Turkish intellectual life was nearly crushed with a big sledge. Books were burnt and prisons became house of torture. The streets, which brought to mind a civil war scene before the coup, suddenly became one of the most silent places on the morning of September 12, 1980. There was just the sound of the tanks. I think, the world could not have benefited sufficiently from the ‘genius’ generals of the12 September coup about how to end a civil war (!). I wonder why people did not take advantage of these successful generals during the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Or why don’t the Iraqis call Kenan Evren, coup leader, to stop the internal conflicts? Wouldn’t they provide the same thing for other parts of the world as they prevented internal conflicts and sibling fights in just one night in such a country like Turkey? No, they wouldn’t. Because anyone who is rational knows that civil war cannot be prevented or ended overnight. In a country where a civil war close to breaking out, the armed intervention cannot stop the conflicts but rather it creates new causes for conflicts. So Turkey’s story is quite different from what we know about civil wars. There is a little left to learn the secret of this job.
Similar to the 27 May 1960, the army went back to the barracks just after the elections on 12 September intervention. In fact, someone who looks at the picture more closely can see how the Army settled in the middle of life and never returned to barracks. Just like the elections of after the 27 May, there were many generals in the parliament in the first elections. Many of the provincial governors and police commissioners were of military origin while there were uniformed people in the most important positions of the country. More important, the head of the state was Kenan Evren who made the coup while the other commanding officers formed the ‘Big Brother’s council’ at the top of the government. Prime Minister Turgut Ozal made many maneuvers not to annoy the generals until the 1990’s. It was not just the politics that was under control, the business world was also controlled. Retired generals were working in management boards of companies as if they made private agreements. This situation continued until the 1990’s. That some board members were retired generals in confiscated banks causing an economic crisis is an interesting detail. After 12 September, state emergency and martial law were removed step by step while these laws were replaced with normal laws later.
In other words, martial law continued in some areas after the 12 September. Interventions became a part of our life. While civilian life was kept in a narrow field, the rope was kept in the same place in the most vital issues. The generals did not concede all power to the people who were chosen in elections. A tight fisted act was applied on the strategic areas of government when the power was abandoned to civilians because of the logic that there cannot be two powers at the same time. If the power has been shared, it means there would be no power or hegemony at all. As a result, generals who made the intervention did not share power with civilians but left enough area to make them feel as they were in power.
With observed shifts in the system of the Erbakan- Ciller government, the coup d’état logic went into effect once again while the balance setting, deformed in 28 February, was adjusted. At this time, expansion of power continued through laws, regulations and protocols to make the coup permanent.
The constitution of the country and most of its laws has been made by coups until at the point which we find ourselves today. Living together with its laws and associations, the coup conception has remained alive and vibrant. Moving from this background, some people would like to exploit from their self-recognized ‘legal’ rights. In other words, it is not easy to expect a different result from such an inheritance structure. If Turkey wants to build a future, it should face with the past and its distorted structure.
In conclusion, no coup in Turkey or in the world can be democratic. A structure that destroys constitutional regulation and takes power with despotism and armed forces never leaves power voluntarily. In this regard, Turkey does not constitute an exception.
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